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February 14, 2024

Museum of Contemporary Art employees form union with AFSCME

The wave of union organizing among Chicago cultural workers just keeps rolling: 32 employees of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago released a letter on Feb. 14 saying they are forming their union with AFSCME Council 31.

The new union—Museum of Contemporary Art Workers United (MCAWU/AFSCME)—will represent about 100 employees, including guest experience, building operations, curatorial and collections exhibitions staff.

Citing a “cycle of staff burnout and turnover”, museum employees on the MCAWU/AFSCME organizing committee write that, “We believe there is a better way. … We are part of a growing movement of cultural workers in and around Chicago and across the country who are ensuring that we have a seat at the table. We demand a voice in the decisions that are made for the future and well being of the museum.”

Every museum employee deserves a voice on the job, adequate wages, equitable benefits, transparency from management and more, the letter states.

“Our union is the framework to ensure accountability from leadership,” workers write. “With the right to bargain collectively, we can meet leadership across the table as co-equals to determine our future [and] improve the quality of our working environment and museum.”

In the last two years, employees of the Art Institute of Chicago, staff and non-tenure-track faculty of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and employees of the Field Museum, Museum of Science & Industry, Notebaert Nature Museum, Newberry Library and several suburban libraries have all formed unions as part of AFSCME’s nationwide Cultural Workers United campaign.

AFSCME represents more than 35,000 cultural workers across the country—more than any other union—including 10,000 museum workers at 100 cultural institutions and 25,000 library workers at 275 libraries.

“The MCA is a vibrant and cutting-edge institution that succeeds because of its brilliant and dedicated staff,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. “MCA employees deserve the same voice, fair pay, decent benefits and respect that so many cultural workers in Chicago have joined our union to achieve.”